Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mix Government and Religion, Women Lose

There's a great article in the New York Times that once again illustrates why government and religion should never mix.

In Pakistan, anyone who advocates equal rights for women can be, and often is, accused of blasphemy. And that, my friends, is a capital crime! Gloria Steinem, watch out! You'd get the death penalty if you tried your feminism stuff in Pakistan!

Women's rights are almost nonexistent in this religion-dominated country, just as they were in America and Europe when religion was in charge. But Pakistan seems to be even worse: a woman who is raped can't go to the police because she'll be accused and convicted of infidelity.

In most countries, civil rights violations spawn citizen protests. India threw off British rule, Martin Luther King inspired America's Blacks to demand their civil rights, and gay and lesbians around the world are finally slowly getting their rights. But with Islam running the government in Pakistan, women will never be able to throw off the terrible oppression of the Muslim male-dominated society.

The clerics who hold all the power are unelected and don't answer to the people they rule. They only answer to their "higher power." And since they are clerics, they can read their Holy Qu'ran and interpret it any way they like.

Take the case of Mrs. Bibi. She brought drinking water to some Muslim coworkers, and some of them wouldn't drink it because Mrs. Bibi is a Christian. They argued, and next thing you know Mrs. Bibi was sentenced to death for blasphemy. What did she say to deserve this? We can't know, because it would be blasphemy to publish the court proceedings! After her conviction, she was paraded in the streets where authorities allowed her to be gang-raped by the town's men.

Or consider the assassination of governor Salman Taseer last week by his own bodyguard. His crime? The governor wanted the blasphemy laws repealed. There was a huge public demonstration in support of his assassin who was seen as a hero of Islam!

The problem with mixing religion and politics is that there is no accountability. Religion claims to be accountable to God, but like most things in politics, that's simply a lie. When religion is allowed into government, power-hungry men (it's almost always men) wrap the mantle of God around themselves and commit moral crimes without restraint.

There doesn't seem to be any good news for Pakistan's women. The religious conservatives have an iron grip on the government, and the decent Muslims who believe in women's rights are justifiably frightened, afraid to say a word.


  1. CORRECTION: Benazir Bhutto was the female Prime Minister of Pakistan who was assasinated a few years ago. The Punjab governor who was assasinated by his bodyguard (who accused him of blasphemy) was Salman Taseer.

  2. Declan – thanks for the correction!

  3. I was listening to BBC World News on NPR (talk about aligning with my demo) and they were interviewing a Pakistani man, I forget his position, and he tacitly admitted that he felt the death penalty was the correct punishment for blasphemy. He fell back on "that's Islamic law", but he never disagreed with this law. In America, I can disagree with a law. In Pakistan, if you disagree with a law, you can be murdered, and people will praise your killer. It's chilling. One of my favorite Robert J. Ingersoll quotes fits neatly into your story:

    "The liberty of man is not safe in the hands of any church. Wherever the Bible and sword are in partnership, man is a slave."

    What's sad is that this is all these people know. They are ignorant to the way they perpetuate their own slavery.


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